I am writing to say goodbye to you. I should have done this a long time ago but a part of me was waiting for some kind of closure. Or perhaps a renewal of our friendship, although I admit that was being hugely optimistic.
We met as fellow outcasts in college, thrown together by our love of English literature and teenage troubles. We dressed differently from most of the others, too. Not to make a statement, but because that's the way we had always dressed. We loved to write, and to read, spending entire afternoons at the British Library. We also suffered at the hands of lecturers because we were the "Gulfie Girls" and that somehow implied a certain amount of snootiness, not to mention the petro-dollars. Laughable, wasn't it?
I was waiting for that three-year sentence to end so that I could get on with the rest of my life. You were angst-y, dealing with a whole lot of emotions every which way. I loved the rebel you were because I had never mustered the courage to execute a rebellion against the messy extended family I was thrown amidst. I loved the fact that you were 19 and trying to find yourself, when I was merely counting the days when my sentence would end and I could leave that awful place.
I loved the way you would launch into a song on the campus while others watched. Remember the time you really let loose when we were walking past the old auditorium. I was a little embarrassed at first, but when I looked around, people were enjoying your rendition of Saving all My Love for You. You were the proud - and probably the only - recipient of a standing ovation in those tree-lined pathways.
We made other friends, it was a comfortable group and I know that you and they were the people who made life possible to live from one day to the next. You were a brighter star on the radio - that clear, honey-dipped voice had many a fan on the airwaves. You were the one who came up with a deeper analysis of the literature when I was wondering if I should have majored in Economics (considering that a few of our professors insisted on explaining Keats, Arnold, and even Shakespeare in Malayalam, not English).
I could drop into your house on weekends and was grateful that your Mum would let me cook something I sorely missed at that lousy hostel I lived in. I loved that you called the maid your "mother's assistant." That you were angry at the fact that a woman could not walk in Trivandrum without fear of molestation after 7 pm, that you stabbed perverted bus conductors with your umbrella if they tried any hanky-panky, that you tried to make the most of that outdated coursework we had in the college, that you put life into some of those mindnumbing plays that we enacted.
And then, things changed. It was just two years, but how things changed. You had finally broken out and were free to live your own life. That idiot who ditched you to marry a girl chosen by his family might have been responsible in a way, but you were also enjoying your freedom. And that was great. I helped you with whatever you asked for. It wasn't much but it felt nice to be there for a friend.
After that course, you moved away to begin working in Delhi. Then you were engaged. I too moved to Delhi after I got married. We lived barely a few miles from each other and worked in the same office, and yet, I did not recognize you. Our wonderful P had died in that tragic accident and I knew little about the horrifying background that must have made life miserable for the both of you.
Still, I did not understand why you were cold shouldering me? Was it because we were working in the same office and I was hired one grade higher? I had more experience, so it wasn't unfair. But things only went downhill from there. You ignored me when you were with your new friends. Was I not cool enough? Or had I done something to upset you? You never told me. When you returned from your honeymoon, I never even got to see the wedding pictures until I asked to see them, whereas the rest of the office was invited to view the albums. Hmm...I got the message, but I didn't know what I had done, or not done to deserve that.
You and your husband had moved to the south. I had a baby and decided to quit working full time. You were the only one - yes, the only one - to never respond to the email in which we announced the birth of our son. And then I heard that you had commented that I would lose out on my career because I was taking a break. I also heard that you didn't want to have children because the world was going to the dogs and we didn't have much to offer to a new generation. That was so you. I always wondered why you had drifted away. I wrote to you a couple of years back but again, there was only silence.
Anyway, to cut a long story short. I didn't lose out on my career because I took a break. Instead, I learnt and did a whole lot more than I would have as a regular journalist. I'm back at full time work, my son is six years old and a perfect delight. I don't know what fate has in store for him. He has a rare eye condition that will need to be monitored his whole life. All I have to offer him is my love and my support.
I thought about you a few days back and noticed that something was different. That nagging feeling about why you drifted away did not haunt me any more. So although I might have liked for us to have had an open conversation a few years back, that is no longer the case. I have made peace with how things have turned out. This is my closure.
To quote the poet Richard Burton:
Friends of my youth, a last adieu!
Haply some day we meet again;
Yet ne'er the self-same men shall meet;
The years shall make us other men.